Dutch gov't agrees to investigate secret Cold War resistance group
The Ministries of Defense and General Affairs agreed to commission an exploratory investigation into the archives of the highly classified Stay Behind organization - a Cold War resistance group. Relatives of Stay Behind members have been pleading for information about their activities for years, the Volkskrant reports.
The government asked the Netherlands Institute for Military History (NIMH) to make an inventory of source material to see what information exists about Stay Behind and what can be made public. NIMH will present the results of this exploratory investigation in October, after which the government will decide whether or not to launch a definitive study.
The Stay Behind organization existed between 1945 ad 1992, according to the newspaper. The Netherlands founded it to form an armed resistance if the Soviet Union invaded. The organization consisted of hundreds of civilians divided into Operations and Intelligence. The Ministries of Defense and General Affairs and BVD, the predecessor of intelligence service AIVD, coordinated the group.
The government secretly recruited citizens for Stay Behind. They received occasional training and, in some cases, had weapons in the house. They could not tell their family anything about their work, causing a lot of tension at home. Secretly they prepared to launch an attack, flee the country, or manage intelligence networks should the invasion come.
In 2017, descendants of three former Stay Behind members told the Volkskrant how frustrated they were that the government still refused to recognize their fathers’ service or be open about what they did. They are therefore delighted by this step. “We hope that this assignment will actually lead to the NIMH opening doors that have been closed until now,” Hadewych Jansen op de Haar said to the newspaper on behalf of the descendants. “These doors are located in various places at various government organizations and former office holders.”
Hadewych Jansen op de Haar’s father was Gerard Pelt. According to the newspaper, he was the chief of sabotage in the Operations division for 30 years. He took notes and recorded locations where heavy weapons like bazookas were stored underground in 40 places in the Netherlands.
In the 1990s, weapons from one of those depots ended up in the hands of Amsterdam criminals Sam Klepper and John Mieremet. According to the newspaper, the government never acknowledged this theft to avoid a discussion about Stay Behind.
Prime MinisterfMark Rutte and then-Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld thanked the former Stay Behind members and their relatives for the first time in February 2021. “During the many years that they were part of the Stay Behind organization, the members prepared themselves, out of a high degree of patriotism, in part disinterested and extremely conscientiously and professionally for their responsible and difficult task in the interest of our kingdom. This has created significant tensions in several families and imposed restrictions on family and personal privacy. The effort deserves the highest appreciation,” Bijlevend and Rutte wrote.